Reaching the Nations

Equatorial Guinea

By David Stewart and Matt Martinich

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Geography

Area:  28,051 square km.  Located in Central Africa by the equator, Equatorial Guinea comprises a tiny portion of Continental Africa named Rio Muni and five inhabited islands. Bioko, the largest island, is off the coast of Cameroon.  Tropical climate stays consistent throughout the year resulting in tropical rainforest in the interior and mangroves along the coast.  The islands are volcanic in origin and the mainland has plains and hill toward the interior.  Equatorial Guinea is divided into seven provinces.

Population: 633,441 (July 2009)

Annual Growth Rate: 2.703% (2009)

Fertility Rate: 5.08 children born per woman (2009)

Life Expectancy: male 60.71, female 62.54 (2009)

Peoples

Fang: 85.7%

Bubi: 6.5%

Mdowe: 3.6%

Annobon: 1.6%

Bujeba: 1.1%

Other: 1.4%

Tribal peoples all share Bantu ties.  Half the population lives in Rio Muni, native to the Fang.  Bubi are indigenous to Bioko Island and the Annobon to Annobon Island. 

Languages: Spanish (67.6%), other (32.4%).  Spanish and French are both official languages.  14 languages are spoken.  The most spoken native languages are Fang and Bubi.

Literacy: 87% (2000)

History

Portuguese explorers first arrived in the late 15th century.  The Spanish ruled Equatorial Guinea for 190 years under the name of Spanish Guinea.  Independence occurred in 1968.  President Teodoro Obiang has ruled since coming to power in a coup in 1979.  Elections are held periodically but international observers have expressed concern at irregularities..  Since independence, the economy has grown dramatically through oil revenues, although most Equatorial Guineans have seen little improvement in their living conditions.

Culture 

The culture of Equatorial Guinea includes Portuguese, Spanish and native influences.  The Catholic Church dominates many areas of social life.  Polygamy is legal and widely practiced. 

Economy

GDP per capita: $37,300 (2008) [79.5% of US]

Human Development Index: 0.719

Corruption Index: 1.7

Oil extraction and export has significantly increased economic growth over the past couple decades.  In 2007 the GDP grew by an estimated 22.5%.  The economy is poorly diversified, as industry accounts for 93.7% of the GDP.  The economy is sensitive to fluctuations in the prices and demand of oil.  Wealth is very unequally distributed and unemployment is high (30%).  An estimated three-quarters of the population lives under the poverty line.  Agriculture remains an important part of the economy, primarily producing coffee, cocoa and rice.  Fishing and lumber are important small industries.  Primary import/export partners include the United States, Spain and China. 

Corruption ranks among the worst worldwide.  Government has taken most of the nation's wealth for its leaders.  Despite a GDP per capita in Equatorial Guinea similar to that of Western European nations, most live in poverty.  Little has been done internationally to reduce corruption. 

Faiths

Christian: 93%

Indigenous beliefs: 5%

Muslim and other: 2%

Christians

Denominations  Members  Congregations

Catholic: 600,000

Seventh Day Adventists  2,336  20

Jehovah's Witnesses  1,138  16

Latter-Day Saints  less than 50  0

Religion

Catholics are the largest religious group.  Government is sensitive to criticism from Catholic officials.  Indigenous beliefs are often followed together with Christianity.  Protestants are a small but growing minority.  The number of Muslims is increasing as immigrants from nearby nations continue to arrive. 

Religious Freedom

Persecution Index:

The constitution protects religious freedom which is generally upheld by the government in practice.  Religious groups are required to register with the government and face fines and penalties for not doing so.  Although government typically does not deny registration for different Christian denominations, the process can take months to years to complete.  No restrictions prohibit proselytism.[1]

Largest Cities

Urban: 39%

Malabo, Bata, Ebebiyin, Mbini, Luba, Evinayong, Moca, Mongomo, Aconibe, Acurenam.

No cities have an official LDS congregation.  38% of the national population lives in the 10 largest cities.

Membership Growth

LDS Membership: Less than 50 (2008)

In 1998, a parade celebrating the arrival of the Mormon pioneers featured a float consisting of members from Equatorial Guinea who joined the Church in 1995.[2]  At least one member from Equatorial Guinea attended LDS Business College in 2001.[3]

Congregational Growth

Branches: 0 Groups: 1?

Equatorial Guinea was assigned to the Cameroon Yaounde Mission in 1992.  A year later, mission headquarters were transferred to Cote d'Ivoire but jurisdiction remained with the mission.  In 1998, the Africa West Area was created and included Equatorial Guinea until 2003 when the country was transferred to the Africa Southeast Area and was not associated with a mission.  In the late 2000s, the Democratic Republic of Congo administered Equatorial Guinea.  In the late 2009s, a small group of members that included expatriates likely met in Malabo.

Activity and Retention

Few LDS members live in the country.  Activity rates are unknown and there are no reports of convert baptisms.

Language Materials

Languages with LDS Scripture: Spanish, French

All LDS scriptures and curriculum materials are translated into French and Spanish.  Gospel Principles Simplified and The Prophet Joseph Smith's Testimony are both available in Fang. 

Meetinghouses

No meetinghouses operate in Equatorial Guinea.  The first meetings will likely be held in members' homes or rented spaces.

Health and Safety

HIV/AIDS infects 3.4% of the population.  Tropical diseases are endemic, road networks are underdeveloped, and accidents are common.  Life expectancy is relatively short (60 for men and 62 for women), and access to care is uneven with many living below the poverty line.

Humanitarian and Development Work

No humanitarian or development projects sponsored by the Church had occurred in Equatorial Guinea as of early 2010. 

 

Opportunities, Challenges and Prospects

Religious Freedom

Opportunities to hold meetings without government restrictions and conduct missionary activities freely have not been utilized by the Church.  The Church may have attempted to apply for recognition in the past but approval may have been delayed due to the slow application process.

Cultural Issues

The strength of the Catholic Church may challenge LDS Church efforts to establish an official presence.  The strong Christian background of most people will likely contribute to growth once an official Church presence is established.

National Outreach

Despite its small geographic size and population, Church outreach will be challenging in Equatorial Guinea due to the separation of the country between the five inhabited islands and the mainland.  Malabo will likely have the first official Church presence as it is the capital and where most of the expatriate members likely reside.  Congregations and missionaries in Malabo will likely facilitate the establishment of the Church in Rio Muni as many have arrived from this region and live on Bioko. 

The greatest opportunity for outreach is in Rio Muni, where over half the population lives.  Many live in rural areas which will challenge outreach with a limited number of mission centers.

Member Activity and Convert Retention

A fraction of the total membership is likely active due to the long interval without a Church presence since the first members arrived in the country.  Locating members will likely be challenging once outreach begins.

Ethnic Issues and Integration

The Fang constitute the majority of the population.  Outreach to minority ethnic groups may be challenging as they have small populations and often speak languages in which there are no church materials.

Language Issues

Spanish will likely serve as the language for conducting Church meetings as it is an official language and widely spoken among different ethnic groups.  Additional language materials in Fang may be translated since it is the native language with the most speakers.  Church meetings and missionary work may use Fang instead of Spanish in Rio Muni.

Leadership

Very few or no members native to Equatorial Guinea have served missions.  A lack of leadership may have prevented a formal Church establishment.

Temple

Equatorial Guinea pertains to the Johannesburg South Africa Temple District.

Comparative Growth

The status of the Church in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon appear very similar.  Both nations have had Church members living in them for decades yet neither has an official Church presence.  This has likely been due to their small populations and remote locations.

Other Christian denominations have seen modest growth.  Over the past decade the Seventh Day Adventist Church has quadrupled the number of members and congregations.  Many other denominations have recently become established or have registration pending.

Future Prospects

Definite opportunities exist for the establishment of congregations and mission outreach in Equatorial Guinea, and some LDS members who joined the Church in other nations are known to live in the country. Other denominations have taken advantage of the opportunities for religious freedom and proselytism and have experienced rapid growth, whereas the LDS Church has not yet utilized these opportunities.  Too long a delay may result in missing a window of religious freedom, or entering under circumstances of decreased receptivity due to increasing materialism or an environment in which religious interest has waned and most religious seekers have already been discipled into other denominations.  Nonetheless, there appear to be no specific plans for the LDS Church to enter Equatorial Guinea at present.  Mission outreach will likely not occur unless additional missions are created in Central Africa or large groups of interested individuals request missionaries.  Equatorial Guinea may be included in a future mission based in Cameroon due to geographic proximity and similarities in native languages.


[1] http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2009/127230.htm

[2] http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/31500/Creativity-dazzle-highlight-annual-Days-of-47-parade.html

[3] http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/39767/LDS-Business-College.html